All the ornaments are on the tree. The newest riff on the family tabbouleh is chilling, waiting for us to taste-test it after the flavours meld. The three packages needing mailing — well, the ones that have arrived total three; more to come! — are mailed. Not to mention trash taken out, cat taken to vet (not new-cat Hector, but old-cat Sophie), laundry done, and other chores.
All accomplished, unfortunately, at the expense of my temper… I yelled at my beloved. How dumb is that?? Yes, I know it’s human. Yes, I realize that folks get stressed, myself included. But the whole point of the season is love, folks. NOT YELLING.
My mother used to have at least one HUGE meltdown every holiday season. Sometimes, in bad years, she had TWO. These weren’t just yelling at us. Like most things my mother did, she had her own inimitable style even in meltdowns. She would yell, threaten NO CHRISTMAS AT ALL, and cry. Then SLAM the door to her room, and stay in until — I assume? — she calmed down.
I’m sure that like mother, like daughter she was worried about getting it all done. Making sure that presents were beautifully wrapped (certain kinds of paper, only!), and the tree decorated (she often had ‘themes,’ that meant buying totally new ornaments and lights that year — no small endeavor!), and presents bought (for that special paper). We had to put up the tree w/out help from any guys — and it was always a live tree, at least for many years — because my father was almost always overseas at Christmas.
So Mother’s meltdowns were well-earned. And an ongoing part of my holidays growing up. I was glad when holiday festivities became my responsibility, as the eldest. It meant Mother could relax. She’d earned it.
When I get close to my version of meltdown– yelling, mostly, and stressing over things not being ‘perfect’ — my beloved is wonderful enough to do what we all should do: hug the stressed friend or loved one, and remind him or her: it’s going to be okay; we have this under control. you’re not the only person responsible. You don’t have to worry.
I wish I had realized that’s how easy it is to fix holiday meltdown syndrome: a hug, a soothing mantra. Wherever my mother’s energy is now, I send her a big holiday hug, and the knowledge that she was never alone. Even when it felt that way. And gratitude, odd as that sounds: knowing it’s a family tradition makes me feel just a leeeeetle less guilty. Happy Holydays, Mother!